(P) JimCin Recordings
Hardy does a marvelous job of portraying life amongst the small hamlets of Egdon Heath. The story line though, is fairly typical and it belies Hardy's status as a literary heavyweight. The physical description of people and place are extraordinary and more than makes up for the somewhat flat plot. Hardy does require something from the reader (listener) and can display near cunning in his use of English.
Hardy's attention to accent and intonation in the dialogue of his characters really set this book apart and help the reader to become immersed. I attempted reading the print version of this book 3 times and the dialogue did me in each time. For this reason an audio version of the book is much appreciated.
The narration does not disappoint but the audio quality is uneven. I might have rated this a 5 star work if the audio was pristine.
I'm new to Hardy, and loved his descriptions and strange romantic sensibility, though I had to listen to the first couple chapters more than once to get a feel for the scene and characters. I am a big fan of Jill Masters--I love her throaty, musical voice. She is a reader rather than a dramatist, allowing the author's work to take precedence over the performance. That said, her recordings are generally not good quality. If this bothers you in the sample audio, you will not enjoy listening to hours of it.
After Tess of the D'Urbervilles, I was keen to listen to more Thomas Hardy, however the differences between Tess and this title could hardly be greater. While the Audible information indicates that Jill Masters is the narrator, the cover of the audiobook indicates that it is "read by Alan Rickman". Unfortunately, Jill (or Alan, depending on what she likes to be called) is simply abominable as a narrator. She sounds like the Queen reading her Christmas address inside a trunk at the bottom of the ocean...in 1972. Not only does her very posh voice not suit the context of this book, she is simply unable to alter her voice in any significant way to make the characters in the narrative come alive. It is as though she is reading to 8 or 10 year old children. As noted, the "echo chamber" in which she appears to be reading is a constant distraction. There is no clarity at all. I love my Audible books, but this one is a complete and utter shocker.
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